Updated: Sep 27, 2020
Hubby asked me this evening. “Why didn’t you freeze your eggs sooner?” I already told you, when I got accepted in to veterinary school I was 31, and knew that when I graduated at 35, the chances of me getting pregnant naturally were low, statistically speaking. Freezing my eggs would have been a great option, had I one - even thought about it, two - had the money, three - had the idea that you could be a career driven woman in your 30’s AND be a mom.
But you know what they say? Hindsight is 20:20.
Okay, so when I found out from one of my mentors who is a single mom, who started when she was 38, to go through becoming a mother on her own, why had I not thought about it when I graduated from vet school? Thanks hubby for bringing it up. Thanks for making me feel regretful. If you don’t know my husband, just know that he has an innocent curiosity, he will ask the awkward questions and not understand why the question itself is upsetting.
Should’a, could’a, would’a.
So why am I even writing about it now, other than the fact that my hubby needs to understand what it all means?
I mentioned that you have four resources, well, Dr. Crawford says this. Money, Time, Physical Health and Mental well-being. If you are ever at zero for any if those, it’s just not going to work for you.
At age 35, you have about a 10% chance of conceiving on each cycle, naturally. Had I known that I would be below average for my age at 39 for my AMH levels, maybe I would have frozen my eggs. So let’s forget about time for a minute.
Money: it costs you about $8000 for the procedure of egg retrieval and freezing, not including the $3-5k for medications to stimulate your ovaries before they will collect them. These are current Canadian funds, in Ontario, so just stick with me. Once your eggs are retrieved, they are frozen in liquid nitrogen for safe keeping. Then the cost of storage. Say another $500 per year. If you are a veterinarian, you will be able to make that up, somehow. Despite your ridiculous student loans. But not exactly something you are thinking about while building up that student debt.
Physical health: Well, I can tell you that Freshman 15 really was a thing for me. So I still worked out and didn’t have a neck injury at the time preventing me from achieving a healthy weight once I graduated vet school. During, not so much.
Mental well-being: We all know that stress is a huge component of a medical degree. During school, it likely would not be an option. Even starting my first job, that I quit after 1.5 weeks - that was stressful. No one starts a new job and thinks, hey, I should freeze my eggs. We have so many other things to worry about! Am I doing a good job? Making sure you are making the right medical decisions. Suffering when you make the wrong decisions. So yes, stressful is just the tip of the iceberg of being a newly graduated veterinarian.
Let’s talk quality now, not quantity. If you are going to freeze your eggs, you should do it before you are 32. I said it before and I will say it again, you are going to want your 32-year-old eggs if you want to conceive and have your own genetic child in your late 30’s early 40’s. With each year you get older, the genetic abnormalities of your eggs increases. Eggs are going through chemical stress in the body with oxidative stress. This can contribute to poorer egg quality. I would have wanted my 31-year-old eggs.
Eggs aren’t that easy to freeze either, at least in the early days oocyte cryopreservation. Early on, a lot of eggs were lost during the process. The egg is a large single cell, that has fluid inside, the cytoplasm. When you freeze fluid, it forms ice crystals, which means that the process of freezing can damage parts of the egg. It can require dehydration of the egg, essential replacing the water inside with an anti-freeze chemical, and then freezing the egg in liquid nitrogen. They may use vitrification, a form of fast freezing that seems to skip the ice crystal formation and go straight to glass type freezing. Embryos tend to freeze and thaw better. But unless you have a partner already, then you’d be forced to choose a random from the donor bank. But now - it’s different - see the link below!
Anyway, this could be depressing for some, but this is meant for those of you who want to invest in your future family now.
First step, get your AMH checked. If it is already low for your age, you’d better start planning now. Have a conversation with a reproductive specialist to come up with a plan - now, for your future family, especially if you are a career-driven woman. If you are planning on doing a lengthy residency to specialize. If you are focused on your career and not on your life partner.
I had a friend who froze her eggs at the age of 39. She had a really good response. 17 eggs frozen. Not to mention, that while she was extremely fit, she was also a smoker. So call it good genetics, or maybe the Mediterranean diet, but now I know she really was lucky. Like me, she was career-driven, couldn’t find a good man, and really wants her own genetic child, so investment it is.
People tell you, you’re still young. You’re healthy, it’ll work out. But if you want your own genetic child, you better start making a plan before you are 32.
I think that family doctors should be the ones to have the family planning discussion with their patients when they come in for their annual. In fact, they should offer to test a woman’s AMH with her annual blood work. I didn’t learn about AMH testing until my Master’s work due to my colleague having an interest in working with AMH in calves. When I mentioned to my family doctor that I had some abnormal bleeding, and I also had been TTC for almost six months, she put in the requisition. Prior to that, she said, you’re healthy. If it doesn’t work in six months, come back and see me. Pretty standard for most family doctors. She’s awesome, don’t get me wrong! And you know, things may change as time goes on.
So thank-you hubby for making me feel bad about myself for not freezing my eggs sooner. Yes, it’s my fault we haven’t been able to conceive. Well, to be honest, I don’t actually feel that way. But just for dramatic effect.
But let‘s get to my real thoughts on this. I thought freezing your eggs was for rich people. Rich celebrities who have money to spend on fancy things like IVF and egg freezing. Not for poor students like me. But, you will get better return on your investment if you start earlier. So I’m hoping that even one person reading this blog post gains information on how to invest in their future family - now.
Edit: May 20, 2020
Here's some information from an expert: Dr. Crawford speaking on egg freezing
For more on my fertility journey, click here.